Take a minute to think about your heart health

February is Heart Health Month, a time to raise awareness about heart disease.

Heart disease runs in Karen Hawkins family and had defnitley changed her life

Heart disease runs in Karen Hawkins’ family. Just like her mother, Hawkins had open heart surgery for a bypass as well as an aortic valve replacement at 68-years-old. Her brother had one at 65. Her grandfather, had heart problems his whole life

Now, at 77-years-old, Hawkins’ is keeping a close eye on her mitral valve.

“I’ve always done all my own housework and gardening, and now I go to lift a rock and darn it all,” she said with a laugh. “I can’t do stuff like that anymore.”

February is Heart Health Month, a time to raise awareness about heart disease from prevention strategies to encouraging heart check ups and recognizing symptoms of a heart attack.

Hawkins heart problems are genetic and she said she doesn’t remember any recommendations from doctors about staying active or eating healthy, but there are lifestyle factors and health conditions that could increase the risk for heart disease.

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation website, lifestyle risk factors include an unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, and unhealthy weight, smoking, stress and excessive alcohol and drug abuse.

Health conditions that are risk factors are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and atrial fibrillation (irregular heart beat).

To reduce the risk of heart disease, the foundation gives tips on how to manage risk factors that you have control over, like diet and level of physical activity.

As well as looking after yourself, heart health month is a chance to learn the signs of a heart attack in yourself as well as someone else.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation website says that signs can vary from person to person and may be different for men and women but chest discomfort, sweating, upper body discomfort, nausea, shortness of breath and light-headedness are all signs that someone is having a heart attack.